Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kindred Soul - An Interview with Stories & Divinations

It may surprise you to know that I am extremely, exceedingly, unrelentingly, obnoxiously cheap. I haven't always been. In fact, when I was working full-time outside the home, I thought nothing of spending $100 in a lunch hour on some extra swanky takeout and some trinket or other. A reward for my hard work, I thought - well deserved. Now.... well, let's just say things are a little different around here. My former love of shopping has been replaced with a love of saving. After endless rounds of budgeting and adjusting and reprioritizing, $100 is now more than our entire "eating out" budget for a month. I'm very into creating the things we need with my own hands rather than spending money on them, be it meals or birthday cards or items for our home. I very rarely buy anything that isn't consumable, and I never, NEVER buy anything for myself.

That's why my first Etsy purchase last week was such a momentous occasion. It signified a couple of important things: 1. my ability to earn some income doing something I enjoy without sacrificing my stay-at-home status (I had just completed a custom order), and 2. such a profound response to a particular piece of artwork that I felt it simply had to be mine. I actually limit my Etsy browsing in order to avoid such emotional responses and temptations, but this particular encounter was different. Unlike coming across a great owl-adorned hoodie and daydreaming about showing it off to the other mommies at my next playdate in the park, when I stumbled on storiesdivinations, I knew that I had found a kindred spirit. And this is the piece that did it for me:

I asked the artist, Laurie, if she'd be willing to answer a few questions about the piece and her work in general, and she kindly obliged.

M & G: What inspired the piece?

L: I've always had a love for what JFK has come to represent, at least in my mind. I grew up in Detroit and was about ten when the race riots broke out. My mother had always been very vocal politically, as were the nuns at St. Benedict's, my elementary school. My favorite teacher, Ms. Modlin, had just come to us after a stint in the Peace Corps. She was wonderful and would take a handful of us on special trips after school to the museum and through neighborhoods downtown just because we seemed to need the extra attention... In large part because of her and my Mom, we knew about JFK and knew what the "Warren Court" was and about the ideas of social justice and, unfortunately, social injustice. It may sound strange, but I remember feeling nostalgic for JFK even at 10 and 11, although that may really just be rewriting my internal history... I was very lucky to be raised in a period of social upheaval... And very lucky to have had the nuns as teachers. I'm an attorney now largely because of my 9th grade math teacher at Shrine of the Little Flower, Sister Ann Breutsch, a nun who started attending law school when I was in the 10th grade. She talked to us about law and social issues and took several of us to trials in Detroit and to the county jail. More recently, I think about JFK more often since Barack Obama started running for office. They seem to share a particular kind of genuine openness, honesty, and even sweetness that defies the cynicism that has unfortunately become the (entirely justifiable) standard in recent years. I have always had as a personal goal to live long enough that at least an approximation of the Warren Court might be once again ensconced in Washington. If the elections go as they should (yes, I really said that!) we might really be start moving in that direction.

M & G: What are your greatest inspirations in general?

L: Watching people transform from little kids sorting things out in their families to young adults sorting things out outside of home... It's hard work in so many ways but there's no avoiding it. Watching individuals trying to deal with institutions created by the collectivity. Watching people sorting through their normal rituals and struggles. People are so complicated and amazing up close and some are so much stronger than we tend to notice, especially older people. It a little too easy to diminish the details of what older generations lived through. We skim over it in our collective media recollections - the details of life 40 and 50 years ago blur and then become irrelevant. It's so miraculous to look back in detail and see how someone acted out of courage in responding to someone else's need, however large or small, or in taking a stand for themselves. It's an outward manifestation of the constant inner struggle that everyone deals with from day one no matter when they've lived or where. Watching that moment, even surreptitiously, even after it's long past, is like watching birth.

M & G: How would you describe your design aesthetic?

L: I don't know. It shifts around depending on what kind of week it's been. Mostly it's just functional, a graphic opportunity to work out the things I wouldn't otherwise have a chance to say about issues that bother me at 3:00 a.m. It's a little strange to me that other people respond to it. And it's starting to create little bridges to people that might not otherwise exist. Nice.

M & G: What drives you to create what you create?

L: It helps that my youngest kid is now almost 13 and wants me around the house but at the same time doesn't want to engage much and really, really, doesn't want to hear me talking to him about social or personal issues (I can see his eyes rolling as I write this...). It also helps to be in a profession in the other part of my life that requires me to edit myself and exercise such careful scrutiny with every sentence I write. Although law is in some respects all about justice, as a practical matter it's an enormous taboo to talk outwardly about "injustice" in an appellate brief - it's considered overly dramatic and risks being interpreted as an attempt to avoid the specific facts involved in the case. Sometimes the impulses I have to just shout out "enough already!" in that realm find their way into these other things and there's a little release. (Although I do still have an incredibly strong urge to stand in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue before January 2009 and shout just once "WHAT were you THINKING!?")

M & G: What do you hope to convey with your work?

L: I hadn't thought about conveying anything or, initially, even about making jewelry for other people. It just evolved - I made something for myself to wear, kind of as a personal talisman, and other people asked me to make them something. Whatever happens to be on my mind at the moment I'm making something just seems to show up at the end of the process. The process itself is very meditative and, even if nobody wanted anything that resulted, I'd probably still go ahead with it in lieu of other more expensive vices. It's a complete surprise and also really affirming that it happens to result in something that touches someone else... I love that. With any luck, we will have a new political reality very soon and I will be able to sleep instead of waking up in the middle of the night and heading to the dining room table to vent through my jewelry...

Stunning. Hopeful. Mine.


cinnamonspice said...

Fabulous interview and great blog! I'll definitely be back!

CozyMoments said...

Great interview, and awesome purchase!! :)

Anonymous said...

Great blog and feature.